With Christmas about three weeks away and closing in fast, we’ve decided to compile our annual list of aquarium goodies that you can get the aquarium nerd in your life. This is a diverse list that represents different price points and different types of gear. Of course, this list isn’t all inclusive, but we tried to represent the most popular and most useful products available. We broke the presents into about five different price groups, starting around $500 and working downward. These are just a few great items that immediately came to mind, and if you would like to contribue to the list, sound off in the comments section below.
Some of this list will be a rehash of last year’s compilation because the presents are still very relevant. But, we’ve tossed in several new items too, so the list should be a good representation of what’s hot for this year and what is still popular from years past.
The Big Gift…$500 or less
Innovative Marine NUVO Fusion 30L and 40 Aquariums
Want to really impress that special aquarium nerd? What better way to do so than to pony up and get them the well-equipped NUVO Fusion aquariums from Innovative Marine? These tanks are the top of the line all-in-one aquariums that feature low-iron glass, black silicone, mesh screen tops, leveling mats, and more. Please note that this price point does not include the stand.
Kessil A360 LED Light
Kessil has done a great job carving out their spot amongst the top LED light fixtures in the aquarium market. Thanks to their quality and functionality, these lights have become a staple for many fish stores and coral growers, and they would look great wrapped up under that Christmas tree. The A360 is the flagship fixture in a well-rounded lineup, and priced at $499 it was a no brainer to be included in our $500 and less list.
Neptune Systems AquaController Apex
The AquaController Apex is one of the most popular aquarium controllers on the market, and Neptune Systems has positioned themselves to be suited for just about any aquarium setup with their recent software launches and the release of a vast array of accessories. A full blown Apex system is priced around $500 for the top of the line model, with the Apex Jr. and Apex Lite being very affordable and very capable alternatives.
EcoTech Marine VorTech MP40w and MP10w pumps
The VorTech pumps from EcoTech Marine virtually revolutionized the entire propeller pump industry. Landing on the market way back in 2006, the VorTech pumps brought superior technology to the pump world, and they’ve only gotten better as the years have wizzed by. The VorTech MP40 and MP10 pumps, which are the two most popular models, would make for a great Christmas present, even if everyone you know already has one. I mean, who could have enough of these pumps, right?
Vertex Omega 150
When Vertex Aquaristik launched their Omega 150 protein skimmer at MACNA 2012, the entire aquarium keeping community was excited to see such a high quality device offered at such a budget friendly price. Priced at $400, this cone skimmer has tons of great features and looks very stylish to boot. Add in the trusted Vertex name and you’ve got yourself a real winner. We’ve gotten to play with the Omega 150 rather extensively, and we love ours. If $400 is just a bit out of your budget, or if the 150 is too large for your system, you could always spring for the smaller Omega 130.
The perfect present for $300
The breakout product of 2014 is available just in time for the Christmas holidays. This amazing pump from Maxspect has turned the water pump world on its head, as it creates a gyre-type flow (hence the name) that is great at suspending detritus and keeping corals happy and flowing. The product debuted at InterZoo really early in the year, officially becoming available in the $299 XF150 model. More models will debut next year, but for 2014, this is one that tops our wish list.
Last year, this product would have been a bit too expensive for this list, but thanks to some extremely generous price cuts, the RoboSnail squeaks under our arbitrary criteria. This automatic glass cleaning robot is like a Roomba for your aquarium, straying away from a base station to clean your aquarium’s glass or acrylic panels while you spend your time doing something more rewarding. The prices for the RoboSnail models are $250 and $200.
Ecotech Marine ReefLink
The ReefLink debuted at last year’s MACNA and was the “it” product that generated the most buzz. It is the perfect accessory for hobbyists who are running any model of the Radion XR30w, EcoTech’s flagship lighting product. The ReefLink hooks up to your existing internet (either WiFi or wired) and lets users control their lights wirelessly from anywhere in the world with the EcoSmart Live cloud service.
Seneye Reef aquarium monitor
The Seneye aquarium monitor is a great pickup for just about any hobbyist. They are extremely easy to set up, and they monitor a variety of water parameters (ammonia, pH, and water temperature) and lighting conditions. These parameters are communicated via USB interface with a computer, or if the monitor is hooked up to a wireless device (e.g. router), the data streams right to the Seneye cloud servers where it can be access by way of the internet.
Gift ideas around $100
Kessil Spectral Controller
If the hobbyist in your life is already rocking a Kessil A360 or A160 light fixture, then you can’t go wrong with the new Spectral Controller. This handheld controller is very similar to others on the market, but it controls one of the most popular light fixtures available.
Priced at just under $100, the AI Director is the perfect gift for the hobbyist with AI LED lighting over their aquarium. This system lets users control numerous AI devices from a smartphone, tablet, or PC. What we love most about this device, besides the fact that it lets us tinker with our lights from all over the globe, is the fact that it is just so affordable.
MACNA 2015 Full Conference Pass
The Marine Aquarium Conference of North America is taking place in Washington D.C. this year, and the full conference pass is only at this price point ($109) for a little while longer. The full passes always see noticeable jumps as the show draws closer, but believe us when we say that this is the cheapest they will be from here on out. We don’t know the exact date or size of the price increase, but what we do know is that you or someone you know will be at the show anyways, so why pay extra when you can save $80.
Gifts $50 and Less
AquaFX Misty Reactor
Announced very recently, the Misty reactor from AquaFX is a tiny little in-line media reactor that is great for those tight spaces where maximum filtration is needed. They are priced at $49 (on sale for $39 currently) and can house all sorts of media from carbon to GFO.
Hanna Instruments Checker Colorimeter
Testing our aquarium’s water quality is always an important step in determining how to solve various issues, and for the longest time hobbyists were limited to either expensive and bulky digital testers or frequently unreliable titration-based test kits. Fortunately, the crew at Hanna Instruments released a series of digital test meters a couple of years ago called the Hanna Checkers. These tiny little hand held testers have been around for some time now, and while they don’t cover every measurable element or compound that the more traditional titration based test kits cover, they are accurate and inexpensive, which is good enough to make them quite popular among reef keeping hobbyists. The Checkers retail for $50 and come with enough reagents to run a handful of tests, and replacement reagents are available in 100 count packages.
$25 and Under Gift Ideas
Aquarium Books (Various Prices)
It’s honestly quite hard to pick out even a few good books to highlight as there are just so many, but any aquarium keeper worth his salt either has a collection of these books or needs one. We’ve compiled a list of good books below, all of which can be found at your local fish store, favorite online retailer, or even some book stores. All links below are to Amazon and are intended for reference only. We encourage you to purchase your books from an actual aquarium-related retailer.
- Banggai Cardinalfish, A Guide to Captive Care, Breeding & Natural History – Ret Talbot, Matt Pedersen, and Matthew L. Wittenrich, Ph.D.
- The Coral Reef Aquarium – Tony Vargas
- A PocketExpert Guide to Marine Fishes: 500+ Essential-To-Know Aquarium Species – Scott W. Michael
- A PocketExpert Guide to Reef Aquarium Fishes: 500+ Essential-to-Know Species – Scott W. Michael
- A PocketExpert Guide to Marine Invertebrates: 500+ Essential-to-Know Aquarium Species – Ronald L. Shimek
- Aquarium Corals : Selection, Husbandry, and Natural History – Eric H. Borneman
- The Conscientious Marine Aquarist: A Commonsense Handbook for Successful Saltwater Hobbyists – Robert M. Fenner
- Invertebrates: A Quick Reference Guide – Julian Sprung
- Corals: A Quick Reference Guide – Julian Sprung
- Angelfishes of the World – Kiyoshi Endoh
- Giant Clams in the Sea and the Aquarium – James W. Fatherree
Still don’t have a clue as to what to get your aquarium keeping compadres? Gift cards always work. Just find the store or online retailer that they trust and purchase a lot of gear or livestock from and get them a card so they can purchase whatever they want. This means you won’t buy the wrong gift by mistake and they won’t have to return it or try to sell it on the local market if it’s something they don’t need or want.
We realize this list excludes many great items, but if we were to cover them all, the list would be a mile long. This is just a good place to start and is meant to provoke the thoughts of buying awesome stuff for your aquarium keeping friends and family.